Under international law, both the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered occupied territories and settlements there are illegal, which Israel disputes.
On Thursday, twelve European countries urged Israel to “reverse its decision” in a joint statement.
We urge the Government of Israel to reverse its decision to advance plans for the construction of around 3,000 settlements in the West Bank. We reiterate our firm opposition to his policy of expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, which violates international law and undermines efforts for the two-state solution, “the statement from the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, read. Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden.
James Cleverly, UK Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, echoed the sentiment in a separate statement, adding that “the settlements are illegal under international law and represent an obstacle to peace and stability.”
The Israeli announcement had already drawn the ire of the US State Department, and spokesman Ned Price criticized the move Tuesday as “completely inconsistent with efforts to reduce tensions and ensure calm.”
The Biden administration “strongly opposes[s] settlement expansion, “Price said.
The move is likely to put a new wrinkle in relations between the Biden administration and the Bennett government, though Israel hopes to defuse tensions soon with an expected decision to green light more than 1,000 new homes for Palestinians in the West Bank.
The timing of the announcement is also being criticized at home by the left and center-left parties in Israel’s ruling coalition, another sign of tensions in the Bennett government.
According to the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, there are more than 270 settlements in the West Bank and at least 450,000 Israelis living there.